As The Yankees Rotation Forms, Questions Develop
In a year that saw the promise of an All-Star pitching rotation turn into a MASH unit, the Yankees are looking forward to Spring Training in hope that health breeds quality. Based on an article by Bryan Hoch on Yankees.com, recent moves have provided five starters, “assuming they all can make it through the year in perfect health.”
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GM Brian Cashman has worked out trades to fill certain lineup holes, by dealing 2014 revelation, righty Shane Greene to the Tigers as part of a three-way deal for new starting shortstop Didi Gregorius. To fill this rotation spot, Cashman turned 2B/utility player Martin Prado and spot starter/reliever David Phelps for promising Marlins’ righty Nathan Eavoldi. Stalwart Hiroki Kuroda has moved to play in Japan, so Cashman reached into his free agent bag of tricks – not for the big prize like Max Scherzer or James Shields – but for late-2014 add on, veteran lefty Chris Capuano.
That leaves the first four spots for the four biggest question marks: CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda (no pun intended with the “big” description), Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova. Nova, recovering from Tommy John surgery is not due back until May, which gives Eovoldi or Capuano time to settle into the rotation. But little will be expected from Nova, a question mark even if healthy. With time to recover and little pressure, we will see if Nova can deliver and become a steady, fifth starter.
But for Pineda, it’s “go or get off the pot” time. He has suffered from arm, shoulder and back issues throughout his career, and has obvious talent when healthy with a devastating array of pitches, but you never know when any pitch could lead him to the DL. Pineda went 5-5, but with a 1.89 ERA and .200 opponents’ BAA, but spent three months on the DL. He’s entering his arbitration years, so there’s a lot of money at stake for the 26-year old righty.
Tananka’s first half of the season was good enough for an All-Star appearance – if he didn’t feel “some discomfort” in his elbow – which turned into a slight tear in his UCL. The Yanks showed patience by avoiding surgery, but for all his promise, they will be holding their breath all spring as Tanaka tries to build on his two September starts. He’s the “ace in waiting” and a long-term investment, so if he needs Tommy John surgery, the Yanks will bite the bullet and wait for 2016.
But for the “ace in waning” – Sabathia – time is running out and body parts keep him from completing his contract at the level to which Yankee fans have come to expect. After suffering elbow issues in 2013, Sabathia’s degenerative knee condition was the culprit that cost him the remainder of the 2014 season after July. Manager Joe Girardi is counting on the standard 32 starts from CC, who will be counted on to come into Spring Training in shape.
With all these questions and a rebuilt, promising minor league cadre of position players, there’s trade bait for any potential front-of-the-rotation types, like Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Johnny Cueto. Either way, the answers will be coming in about a month, at Steinbrenner Field.